Wildfire is a 2D stealth platformer, created by Sneaky Bastards. It is set in a medieval world where magic is almost non-existent – so when your character discovers he has the ability to control the elements it attracts the attention of those in power, who dispatch an army to hunt you down. You must escape these forces while discovering the extent of your abilities as they grow more powerful.
In this early alpha-build the game focuses on teaching you the extensive game mechanics, though a story mode is currently being developed. There are 27 levels in the version I played, 23 of which are basically tutorials, but don’t let that put you off – there is a brilliant game lurking within!
On each level your character must get from the starting point to the exit door, whilst avoiding or eliminating the various guards that stand in your way. There is no direct way to attack these guards, so you must sneak, scare, and manipulate the environment with your elemental powers in order to progress. There are objectives here too – allies to be rescued and objects to burn.
Time to burn…
Fire, earth, and water can all be collected from a short distance, carried, and then thrown wherever you please – with varied results.
Fire burns things, such as grass and vines, then spreads to nearby objects leaving behind a trail of destruction. It also scares the enemy and makes them panic – forcing them run off tall platforms or fall into spikes, killing them instantly. You can also change your carried fire into a smoke bomb that suffocates the guards, causing them to be temporarily knocked out. Smoke from burning objects stops guards from being able to see you, and you can walk on it (yes, on smoke!) in order to fall more softly or to access higher platforms. Fire also melts snow, so if you’re carrying it while running across a snow bridge… well, let’s just say that when I did that it ended badly!
“Earth” allows the player to collect grass or vines into a green orb of nature that can then be thrown in the same way as the other elements. When this hits a wall or ceiling it becomes a vine, and when it hits the ground it becomes tall grass.
Water puts out fires (duh!), makes rock slippery, and when thrown into more water it creates a floating bubble that you can jump into to access higher platforms. I believe that there will also be the ability to freeze water in order to trap enemies and create a solid platform to walk across, but this is not yet available.
If you’re starting to think that there has been a lot of thought gone into this game, then you’re right! And I’ve not even got onto the stealth aspect yet!
Softly, softly, catchee monkey…
The enemies in Wildfire are not to be messed with. If they see you, and they can hit you, they will hurt you! You can be hit 3 times before death, but these 3 hits can be received VERY quickly, and from range too if archers are involved. Death means restarting the level (from a checkpoint, if activated), but it’s a suitably annoying setback.
Thankfully, Wildfire has a great stealth mechanic (as you’d expect from a company called “Sneaky Bastards”!) that allows you to hide, creep, and generally thwart the enemies’ attempts at ruining your day.
Tall grass and deep snow can be hidden in to get past the guards – and if they’re not approaching, you can whistle to get their attention. Walking slowly generates no noise, but if you start running or falling, well they’ll be on you in a flash – and they are persistent! They will hunt you down by running and jumping across obstacles until you manage to get out of sight, but then they’ll patrol around the area you were last at. They also alert other guards to your presence, and there are certain enemies that can smell you out from your hiding spot.
All of which means that traversing from one side of a level to the other can be rather difficult!
Please sir, can I have some more?
More!? OK then, how about this: Bodies can be carried and used to break frail objects. Captive allies can be rescued and directed to follow you or stay still until you can clear the way to a checkpoint to save them in a Lemmings-esque way. Oil barrels explode in fire and make the ground slippery. You can swim, climb, and cling onto walls. There is a cooperative mode wherein you can play with a friend. Skills are upgradeable and new skills are unlockable (though not in the version I played)…
Oh, and there’s a level editor.
For an early alpha, this game has a LOT of depth. It’s also very pretty, rocking pixel-art style graphics that are very well done and smoothly animated, and has atmospheric background music that changes when you’re detected or under attack. There are other audio niceties too – for instance, the guards talk to each other while patrolling and call you out when you’re spotted.
So where’s the catch? Well to be honest, there aren’t many. Obviously Wildfire is still under active development – it’s missing a story first and foremost, and there aren’t very many non-tutorial levels to enjoy yet. There’s also no real incentive to replay any of the content.
That being said, this game surprised me. It’s very good to play and has a lot of variety, even at this early stage. It has been greenlit on Steam and I’ll definitely be following its progress as the developers continue to introduce new features and content.